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Project Warmth holds winter clothing drive

Adriana Pratt | Thursday, December 3, 2009

If the temperature in South Bend doesn’t drop below 32 degrees, many homeless have nowhere to sleep and are left cold on the streets, Mike Hebbeler, director of student leadership and senior transitions at the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) said.

“What happens when it’s 33 degrees?  When people can’t get shelter and there’s no weather amnesty, they freeze,” Hebbeler said. “It kind of struck me when I was hanging out downtown and there were homeless people who kept calling the weather line to check the weather and wait for it to drop one more degree.

And with the weather is growing colder, the CSC partnered with St. Michael’s Laundry and the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore to launch Project Warmth, a campus-wide initiative that encourages students to donate winter outerwear to South Bend residents in need, hopes to raise both awareness and participation this season. 

“If people can give something they’re wearing or something that they’re not wearing, it would be great,” Hebbeler said.

St. Michael’s Laundry picks up all of the donations, cleans them and brings them back to the CSC.

The Hammes Bookstore offers a drop-off location and 20 percent discount for coat donations to purchase a new coat at the Notre Dame Bookstore, Varsity Shop and Hammes Bookstore on Eddy Street. 

But the coat drive is about more than just getting a discount on a new coat, Julie Nave, marketing coordinator for Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore said in an e-mail.

Nave said contributions will go to thousands of families and their children in the South Bend area who are faced with making a choice between buying a winter coat or putting food on the table.

“What’s better than the gift of warmth this holiday season?” she asked.

Hebbeler said the CSC also started a new campaign this season, posting weather amnesty signs around campus to coincide with Project Warmth. If the temperature drops below 32 degrees, certain organizations open their doors for the homeless overnight.  If the temperature is above 32, there is no weather amnesty.

 “We put signs up right before Thanksgiving … The idea behind the posters was just to open up student eyes,” he said.

All donations from Project Warmth go to the Center for the Homeless, the Catholic Worker, St. Margaret’s House and Hope Ministries.

There is a competition between the dorms to collect the most items.  The dorm that donates the most wins a Rudy style varsity jacket embroidered with their dorm’s name.  The jacket gets passed around each year to the winning dorm as a trophy.

“I think it’s safe to say that Zahm will win every year.  Zahm is looking for competition.  Those guys should be praised because they help out a lot,” Hebbeler said.

Other sites to drop off donations include LaFortune Student Center, Grace Hall and Flanner Hall. Service commissioners from each dorm are responsible for gathering the donations for St. Michael’s and bringing the cleaned items to the shelters.

“The idea is to have service commissioners and perhaps other student groups that are involved in the community stop by the center, pick up the clothes and drop them off … and have a meal with the residents,” Hebbeler said. “The idea is to make it more than just a drop off and to engage people downtown.”

Project Warmth will run through Dec. 9.